The Spiritual Arts Foundation

JuliLa! Have cello, will travel...

January 17, 2023

JuliLa

I am JuliLa! Myself and MaCello (and little LeLe) are the creation of Julia Palmer-Price, singing cellist extraordinaire, mystical musician, teacher and composer of uplifting ditties. To bring songs through is my greatest joy and indeed a privilege and a pleasure beyond measure.

Born in 60’s London, with a musician for a mother, I began composing silly songs from an early age. Our good Christian family was locally known as the Von Trapp’s of Sydenham. All four of us siblings played all sorts of instruments and entertaining was our ‘go to thing’ especially around the Church calendar. I attended St. Phillips ‘religiously’ every Sunday morning with Simon, Ben and Jo until, deciding upon a classical career, I left home to study cello in 1980.

At the RNCM in Manchester, tendonitis soon put paid to my classical aspirations, and I began exploring other styles of music. My opera singer friend Viv and I became backing vocalists for The Biting Tongues and began experimenting with co-writing songs together, calling ourselves the Wild Women of the Wongo! I still sing the co-penned song Listen today.

Upon graduating, a tour with The Sadista Sisters was followed by a BBC Play for the Day called Rachel and the Roarettes (incidentally starring a young Gary Oldman) which, via Pebble Mill Studios, brought me back to London where I sessioned as a cross-over cellist in the glamorous 80’s pop band Hollywood Beyond. Becoming the Dinner Ladies with Mick Jackson, Lorraine Bowen and Ben Davies, we were signed by Joe Boyd to Hannibal Records and, in 1987, released a single Muscle in the Bud and the acclaimed album These Knees Have Seen the World.

A live session on Andy Kershaw’s Radio One show saw us go on to prestigiously perform at Sadlers Wells Theatre, the Cambridge Folk and Edinburgh Fringe festivals, and record at famed Hansa Studio in Berlin. Until, totally enchanted by his eclectic songs, I joined Roddie Harris to form Mirò, whilecontinuing to be in demand as a session cellist for, most notably, Billy Bragg, Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs), Irishmen Gavin Friday & The Man Seezer and the Rainbirds in Germany.

Arrangements for Mirò songs were honed through improvisation during the acoustic night’s we hosted in Earls Court. The basement of the Troubadour Coffee House had been ‘dark’ for a decade and, not fitting into any of London’s Rock, Jazz, Cabaret, Funk or Folk music scenes, Roddie started up London’s first ‘Acoustic Club’ there, reviving the folk cellar, reached by going downstairs via the kitchen. With Mirò as the house band, our legendary Wednesday nights were folk club in style, however, musically everything was welcomed! Our policy was inclusive so long as folk played at the level of (or behind) the human voice. Consequently, the pin-drop quiet audience and players of every conceivable level and proficiency learned their craft as they listened to each other with respect. It was like Church! Sometimes twenty-four floor spots would play before the billed act. And week after week we witnessed inspirational performances by Pooka, David Grey, Tylor, Dave Russel, Johnny London, Beth Orton, Keziah Jones, Praying for the Rain, Ade Sweet, Sonia Kristina, Bob Cairns and The Sons of Fat Harry, The Hank Dogs, 99% Love, Sam & Mano, and many more performance artists and poets. It was an incredibly inventive, wildly exciting and creative time.

Incidentally, all the while in London, I was furthering my cello playing, exploring posture and the mechanics of my craft, via the Alexander Technique, Tai Chi and Iyengar Yoga, and, complimenting my ‘inherited’ natural teaching ability, by studying the Kodayli Method with David Vinden. I also completed a ‘Whippersnapper’ Early Years course.

Meanwhile, being in Mirò was all consuming, our band’s epic performances were dynamic, intense and frequently feisty as Roddie and I played out the drama of our sometimes dysfunctional partnership on stage, dramatic conflicts always having a big-hearted resolution! Our music was unique and totally fulfilling, highly vibrational and never dull! From 1987 to 1994 we became a cult band in Italy, which supported the self-release of three Mirò Albums on our own Secret Heart record label, Angel N1, Grain of the Voice and The Circus of Electrifying Possibility. We also put out an E.P. Greetings from the Golbourne Rd. and a single, The World in Maps, for which we made an animated video starring the legendary Sam. Always looking to inspire and fire up our acoustic scene we put together a compilation of Various Artists, In the Beginning Tommy Steele, and hired big venues like the ICA, Bloomsbury Theatre and the (then) Town and Country Club in Kentish Town for specials and launches!

Devastated when Roddie and I finally split as a couple though we tried to continue with the band, having just sold out The Bloom Club in Milan, it became impossible, and I had to leave. This ending was the beginning of my spiritual awakening.

JuliLa

The first of many ‘lightbulb moments’ happened in a bathtub at Gaunts House Summer ‘mind, body, spirit’ Gathering! I was overcome with a feeling of bliss as I understood unconditional love truly for the first time. The realisation I truly loved ‘him’ and I truly loved ‘her’, and so it was perfect that ‘they’ truly loved each other, set me free.

So, off I went to seek my next musical collaboration, mixing popular tunes with my own material. I busked Covent Garden and Portobello till, finding two eager ‘fresh-faced’ musicians, I started my own band. The Big Love Orchestra Om was me on cello and voice, Alex Lund on bass and Gavin Bonner on drums. Becoming involved in London’s growing alternative, organic, creative, spiritual and green community scene, Bloom (for short) rehearsed out of the Grow House in Ealing. We gigged all around London before heading out into the fields, playing the Kingston Green Fair, Earth Spirit Festival, Buddhafield, the Big Green Gathering, Pete Lawrence’s Little Chill and the Green Field at Glastonbury! Financed by benefactor Louis, an unreleased early Bloom album was recorded in a barn at Lodge Farm in Godalming. Our humble efforts were taken to be mixed by Louis and bassist Alex in Europe. When Alex returned to our dismay all but one of Gavin’s parts had been replaced by an incredible Serbian drummer, and although the result was an amazingly well produced album, being unrecognisable, it broke us up.

Meanwhile, at the Bonnington Square Community Cafe my evolving spiritual enquiries led me to form a friendship with Anton, a channeler of Jesus! I bought a bus and, on Anton’s invitation, moved to Brighton. I got a job, taking over for a cello teacher on maternity leave, and suddenly found myself with 100 students, bombing around Brighton Schools in a little grey van, bursting with baby cello’s, having a crash course in teaching the Susuki Method. Little did I know where this was magically leading to!

I remember drinking tea in the Mayor of Brighton’s kitchen when Anton suggested, “you could play with Nigel Kennedy”. “Haha, nice idea” I replied. The next thing I knew my phone rang and an American voice drawled “You wanna come play Jimi Hendrix with Nigel Kennedy?”. Not to be fooled, “ha-ha” I replied, “who is that having me on?”. But it was Don ‘the damager’ (as Nigel called him) for real! I was hired on the spot, and my ‘audition’ in Belize park turned out to be a first rehearsal.

In my element, I found myself part of an eight-piece chamber ensemble with top notch musicians on a hugely exciting and extravagant tour. Starting at the Milton Keynes Concert Bowl, heart wrenchingly missing out on my sister’s wedding day (another story), zig-zagging across Europe via Ronnie Scott’s and, the proudest of moments, playing the Royal Festival Hall with my beloved parents sitting in the audience. I still sing Glastonbury Girl whose tune came in as we flew over The, (also being missed) Festival that summer, finishing my classic song in time for the last show at the 1999 Lizard Eclipse Festival in Cornwall! After which, these truly awesome travels landed me in the Malvern Hills, where I fell instantly in love with the hills, and then with a gentleman named Phil.

And this is where my JuliLa story begins…

I met architect Philip Price at an All Hallows’ eve party at his restoration project home ‘The Grove’ where I was introduced to him as ‘Nigel’s cellist’. Phil had been told by his psychic Korean concert pianist sister-in-law Heasook that he would meet, fall in love with, and marry a cellist and, it turned out to be me! Romantically we had our first kiss at midnight on the millennium at Nigel’s infamous New Year party and, that February being a leap year, I proposed at two minutes to midnight on the 29th, after walking back over the hill from a Tuesday night jam session at the Brewers Arms. Luckily Phil, after thinking long and hard for several nail-biting seconds, said YES in the knickers of time! And our daughter Aletéa was born 9 months later! We were wed at The Grove and our son Harry followed soon after.

Happily, for the next ten years as we raised our children, I determined to create a Cello’ScooL and develop a style of teaching practise that combined both the Susuki and Kodayli methods with improvisation from Lesson one, whilst all the while continuing to concentrate on my own compositions. My wedded sister brought her growing family to live over the hill in Colwall and our parents soon followed. Sadly my mum, Valerie, arrived in the grip of pancreatic cancer, mercifully a short illness, that saw her off only two and a half months after her first diagnosis.

Thankfully mum dying here in Malvern allowed my sister Jo and me to be with her during her ‘transition’. It was to be an experience I will never forget. At 1:08 am, as the last notes of Faure’s Requiem rang out, a look of wonder fell across her face, and as serenely mum ‘breathed her last’, the bedroom filled with everlasting light. Brighter than the sun, moon and stars together, it was a biblical light that lit up the room and shone on, as if through the walls, through the hedgerows, the buildings, on and on through the hills, 360° all around, on and on forever! I remember simply holding space, staying completely still with Jo, as mum’s spirit left her physical body, for we had no idea how long. I lost all fear of death that day during that last, too beautiful, lesson from my darling mum. The feeling of expanded space, glistening as if a host of angels sang Halleluiah’s, touched me and will remain with me always.

I was so grateful at this time for having just found an Interfaith community in Malvern which at last allowed me and the children to join a regular like-minded gathering of enquiring spiritual souls of all faiths and creeds (or none)! I am eternally grateful for the practical spiritual support of our ordained minister Jane Coulthard at such a poignant time and have been an active member of our interfaith community here in Malvern ever since. Introduced to music from many traditions, I found I truly resonated with certain chants and mantras, sung by Deva Premal and Miten, and discovered that my own hymn-like offerings would find their place within the services.

We buried mum’s ashes under the Yew tree in Colwall Churchyard, and our darling dad settled into life in the locality and life went on. As the children grew (and grew) we were able to re-roof The Grove and restore not one but two Bechsteins with the gift of mum’s inheritance. Our Open House boasted a concert hall with brilliant acoustics and, gloriously amateurishly, I began promoting again, filling the program with musical maties and the halls with the sound of music! From time to time I got to play out in the World back with the Friday-Seezer Ensemble, most memorably ‘Ich Lieber Dich’ at the Dublin Theatre Festival and an unusual re-working of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf! Recorded for the Irish Hospice Trust and released with a book illustrated by Bono and his daughter’s. This led to a run in the sparkling Spiegel Tent, installed in New York State one summer, with the most blessed singer-songwriter ever, Fergus O’Farrell. As the seasons turned back at The Grove we were all flourishing, Phil with ambitious projects and the children by now thriving at their School.

While enjoying teaching and hosting countless magical happenings for the community and children’s parties, I began to think about recording. Having been all the while honing my ‘unique brand of acoustic, ambient folk’, a body of work was rapidly expanding. I managed to simply produce a live album of my songs ‘Back to life’, and was getting back to business when around 2009/10 things began to get tricky as the credit crunch kicked in. Then, unexpectedly, one ordinary Thursday afternoon, Phil died.

With the support of family, friends and the community, though in shock and totally heartbroken, we endeavoured to transform the tragedy for Aletéa and Harry, who were only ten and eight at the time. Our beloved Phil had no life-insurance and, utterly ignorant of the extent of our debt, I was left with the prospect of losing everything. It was the countless miracles that would follow that confirmed for me the existence of a higher consciousness and allowed me, tangibly, to feel able to rely on the divine guidance available 24/7. Especially when holding out for the SALE of our home to the ‘highest bidders’ Anna and Bernard Taylor. Who were, serendipitously, able to spend a fortune to literally fulfil Phil’s original vision for The Grove. Now metamorphosed into the beautifully restored elegant Grade 2 listed home & performance art venue, Elmslie House.

Freed from a weight of responsibility, in our new heaven-sent home with my equally heaven-sent second husband Owen, for the next ten years I indulged in expressing my spiritual ‘journeying’ through my compositions. My songs arrive through a channelled creative process, some ‘land’ and stay, annoyingly as ear-worms, until they are done. Some are quick, some slow, while others are a years-in-the-making process! Full of inspiration from the hills, I can tell you the exact spot where a melody or lyric came in. Often gleaning ideas from wisdom teachings, words heard or read, at other times spilling out straight from my head and heart in morning sessions.

Invited back to the concert hall at Elmslie House, in 2017 I began a Song S P A C E Class with the intention of creating mini-musicians on Planet Earth! Marrying mantra’s, hymns, hums and fave tunes with my own compositions, and SoLfa.. so good! My class ‘for gentle folk of all ages and their little ones’ got me re-named by a small child and I became JuliLa! As a bonus, the class beautifully inspired a flow of new material designed for my family audience, to naturally explore their voice with, allowing folk to free-up, tune-in, and embody being a divine human.

In the lockdown pause, at last I had the time, space and opportunity to weave together a set of these songs I had recorded ‘in stolen moments’. Engineered and co-produced with an incredible musician Dylan Fowler, at his Studio Felin Fach in Abagavenny, in June 2021 my crowd-funded debut Album as JuliLa in Fields was released at Hellens Manor in Much Marcle, Herefordshire.

Fast forward to now, I am well fired up to journey on! It is my intention to continue to passionately create meaningful music that interactively transports listeners, via sweet sing-a-long songs or a powerful mantra (or three), from wherever they are at, to awaken to the truth of who they BE! So joyfully, with an inspired smile, brimming with potential and possibility, we may get out there together as ‘conscious creators of our own creation’ to curate our beloved planet, care for all sentient beings on Earth, and co-create a happy-ever-after for our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children to inherit.. init!

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The Spiritual Arts Foundation
The Spiritual Arts Foundation is dedicated to promoting arts related projects that specifically demonstrate a vision of spirituality at their core. We represent all positive and life-affirming spiritual and religious beliefs.
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